The beginning of the end of Rep. Robert Fisher, a New Hampshire state lawmaker, took root just three weeks ago, when an investigation by the Daily Beast chronicled in painstaking detail years of anonymous, “misogynistic” and “woman-hating” Reddit posts from the user pk_atheist.
It focused on The Red Pill, the web’s most popular online forum for men’s rights activists, where founder pk_atheist commented breathlessly.
His words disparaged feminism, insulted women’s “sub-par intelligence” and called their personalities “lackluster and boring, serving little purpose in day to day life.” He revealed a fear of being falsely accused of rape so extreme that pk_atheist recommended men should install video cameras in their bedrooms. He admitted he already had.
The Daily Beast report insinuated this: that pk_atheist was Rep. Robert Fisher, a preacher’s kid-turned-atheist after an existential crisis of identity.
Fisher, when asked by the Daily Beast to comment, denied participating in The Red Pill or even knowing what it was. Hours later, Reddit names and blogs connected to him were deleted or made private, the Daily Beast reported.
While he continues to deny some of the accusations, Fisher ultimately admitted that he was behind the user name pk_atheist.
On Wednesday, after weeks of changing his story and defending his crusade for men’s rights, Fisher resigned from the Legislature.
“Unfortunately, the falsehoods, lies and comments of an overzealous blogger and some of my colleagues have created a situation where I must genuinely consider the safety and well-being of my girlfriend, my family, and myself,” he wrote in an email to the Associated Press.
Fisher’s resignation came less than an hour after a Republican-led committee in the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 8-6 along party lines to recommend no disciplinary action because the comments attributed to him, while “reprehensible,” were still constitutionally protected free speech.
“Shame! Shame! Shame!” chanted women in the audience. Before the vote, others dressed as characters from the “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a book and television series depicting a dystopian republic where women have no rights.
In a public hearing last week, Fisher admitted to posting under the name pk_atheist, reported the Concord Monitor, but was not asked by any committee members if he founded The Red Pill, which has existed since 2012 and now has 195,000 subscribers. (The term “red pill” comes from the 1999 film “The Matrix.”)
“Several years ago I made some injudicious statements regarding women and my frustrations with dating,” Fisher said during brief opening remarks. “Some of the views that have been alleged here are certainly not reflective of what I stand for and what I have done in my time here in Concord.”
Fisher said he has “never hated women” and denied a second report from the Daily Beast alleging that he was still moderating The Red Pill under a new name, redpillschool. Just as it had done in their initial report, the Daily Beast linked Fisher to the new pseudonym through a web of email addresses, blogs and usernames that made specific reference to his personal story, including the name of his one-person indie-electronic band and campaign website.
The existence of redpillschool — and the identity of the person behind it — was critical to the committee’s vote Wednesday. They were only allowed to consider comments he had made in 2017, during this legislative session, and according to the Daily Beast, Pk_atheist had last commented in 2016.
Pk_atheist handed moderator control of the forum to redpillschool in 2013. But the Daily Beast reporting categorized that as a “fabricated passing of the torch.”
After Fisher denied he was behind redpillschool during the hearing last week, Democratic Rep. Tim Smith, an IT professional, independently investigated the claims alleged by the Daily Beast and traced redpillschool back to Fisher’s email address.
“Mr. Fisher made very little effort to cover up his tracks … all he’s done is taken off his nametag,” Smith said Wednesday, reported the Concord Monitor. “It’s clearly the same person. All of the technical information points to that conclusion.”
Not only did the initial news of Fisher’s involvement prompt a bipartisan call for his resignation from lawmakers and the governor, but it also led House Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff to call for a perjury investigation by the New Hampshire attorney general’s office.
Once Fisher resigned though, Shurtleff told the Monitor an investigation was no longer necessary.
“Since he’s resigned, that’s what we were looking for,” Shurtleff told the Monitor. “It was the right decision for him to make.”
Fisher had said in the weeks after the initial accusations that he went through some “very uncomfortable experiences” in his 20s that made false rape accusations “a very real concern of mine.”
“I know it’s not something most people think about but I lived through a nightmare situation,” he said in a statement to the Union Leader in April. “That sort of experience wasn’t easy for me, it brought me to a very low place in my life. It was only natural for me to try to seek out support. I have since come out the other side much stronger and smarter, and am glad that I’m in a position in Concord that can help others who have suffered.”
And in a letter to the editor in the Laconia Daily Sun, Fisher addressed some of the things he wrote online that were quoted in the Daily Beast stories, including admitting to “supposedly video-taping sexual encounters with women.”
“I never taped a sexual encounter, though I have often considered that it may be the best, or only, form of protection for men to prevent false rape accusations,” he claimed in the letter. “I assume there’s a legal way to do it with proper notices and consent forms, but I never got around to researching it.”